family volunteering in Pittsburgh

3 options for family volunteering and giving at the holidays

Photo above from December’s Family Volunteer Night courtesy of SHIM.

At the holidays, many families are noticing their blessings and are looking for ways to give back. Family volunteering or gathering donations can be a great way to foster a spirit of gratitude and giving, especially for kids.

If you’re looking for opportunities to make a difference, here are three you’ll want to check out:

South Hills Interfaith Movement (SHIM):

In the past month, SHIM has seen more families access their three South Hills food pantries than ever before. The need is great, so SHIM is gladly accepting food donations

Families can host their own mini food drive among their neighbors or friends. Or a family can simply do a food shopping trip to gather their own donations. Click here for their list of most needed items. Financial donations also help SHIM to buy food from the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank, so they are much appreciated.

You can drop off donations at SHIM’s Bethel Park headquarters, 5301 Park Avenue on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays between 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. (You can contact Rachel at (412) 854-9120 ext. 112 with any questions.)

The folks at SHIM also host quarterly volunteer events where families help to repackage dried goods like beans,  lentils and rice that come in large packaging from wholesalers into smaller packages that are more distributable to families. Learn more here about volunteering with SHIM.

volunteering in Pittsburgh
ECDC Donation Drive at SHIM, March 2022.

Foster Love

There are just a few more days left to contribute to Foster Love‘s holiday bag drive.

There are currently more than 15,000 kids in foster care in Pennsylvania, and each day children transition to new homes — often with only a few personal items packed in a trash bag. Foster Love gives “placement bags” to every foster agency they can connect with — organizations that share Foster Love’s vision of ensuring that kids are able to take a bag of new belongings with them when they change homes.

So far, they have collected and distributed more than 16,000 FLP placement bags, and this holiday season you can donate a bag of requested items for a child in need. Get all the details here to donate a packed bag for a child in foster care.

Photo courtesy of Foster Love Project.


For their Bridge to Home holiday project, VolunTOTS is working with Happy Lark Home Organizing to encourage kids to donate toys and books to foster care agencies.

“Local agencies are doing wonderful work to support families in crisis, but they’re doing it extremely short-staffed with limited resources,” says VolunTOTS founder Cami Teacoach. So VolunTOTS is gathering volunteers to put together craft kits, which biological parents and kids in foster care can do together during visits. VolunTOTS is also donating toys and books, and bringing in teams to paint, hang up artwork and put together furniture and toys for the visitation rooms.

“At Pressley Ridge and Auberle,” Teacoach says, “we’re redoing each room for a specific age group, and then within each room there will be three age-appropriate centers (for example, the toddler room will have an art center, an imaginative play center, and a book center).”

VolunTOTS is also creating a lending library for biological parents with books on trauma and managing challenging behaviors. Click here to donate at Auberle and click here to donate for Pressley Ridge. Items from those Items from the wish lists will be sent directly to the agencies.

Volunteers will gather on Saturday, Jan. 21, to help set up and decorate the rooms. Stay tuned at the VolunTOTS website or their Facebook page for more details as that date gets closer.

Cami making a VolunTOTS delivery to the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh.